Ivan Stoltzfus, the Honey Brook man who in late April rode through southern Chester County on his tractor en route to the Pacific Ocean, arrived at his destination a little over a week ago.
It was his goal to raise money for Wounded Warriors, the organization which supports veterans who were injured in combat, on a venture he called “Across America for Wounded Heroes.”
“I’m just overwhelmed. We raised $92,000 and there’s more coming in,” he said in a telephone interview last week.
He said his arrival at the California coastline was extremely satisfying, with large crowds heralding his presence and a parade that included municipal officials.
He crossed the United States along a northern route with his John Deere tractor and followed by a recreational vehicle for sleeping. He offered onlookers the opportunity to contribute to the cause as well as providing them the a website and contact to send money.
He said he chose Crescent City because it was a nice compromise between the steep shores of Washington and Oregon and the congested coastline tourist cities in southern California.
When he arrived, he fulfilled his goal to pour water he scooped from the Atlantic Ocean at the start into the Pacific, symbolizing the unity of the nation.
But he took it a step further. He said after he poured part of the Atlantic Ocean water into the Pacific as planned, he then combined some Pacific water with the Atlantic water and poured that batch back into the Pacific because he heard that the Pacific was slightly lower than the Atlantic and needed more.
Stoltzfus said his heart was warmed by the reception he got along the way.
“Veterans would drive three hours to greet me as I came through, and some of them had tears in their eyes and thanked me,” he said.
Conditions along the way were kind to Stoltzfus, whose vintage John Deere tractor needed little more attention than a tire change.
His daughter said they observed a nearby tornado and had to take cover, but were not harmed.
The Great Plains offered up some memorable views. He said antelope along the way would retreat when he blew his horn, but then they would stop and stare at him. Not too many unusual animals crossed his path, but he said he saw a lot of jackrabbits.
Stoltzfus is not driving his tractor back to Pennsylvania — it will be shipped. Instead he’s taking a plane.
Partway through the trip, he’s stopping in Boone, Iowa, where the residents gave him a strong reception and insisted that he come back to see them. The next day, he will board a plane in Des Moines and arrive in Philadelphia at 7:10 p.m., on Aug. 29.
He will be honored by the Rough and Tumble tractor organization in Lancaster County on Sept. 6, and his daughter said he has plans to appear in several parades in the region later.
Chris Barber is editor of the Avon Grove Sun.